Archery isn’t just about shooting arrows down the range with no thought to where the arrow comes to rest. It is a sport that helps you become disciplined and mentally focussed. Like most sports, learning is progressive, and there is a systematic approach to developing good form.

Once good form is established, this leads to precision shot execution. If you are uncertain about bow draw weight (over bowed) then your ability to learn proper form (biochemical alignment) is dramatically hindered.  Over bowed means that the student cannot draw the bow back to the correct anchor position without aiming the bow up into the air.

If for some reason the over bowed archer is not aiming into the sky, they are going through some amazing contortions in order to overcome the inertia and to control body weight and muscle to perform the shot. This is very dangerous, not just to the archer but to everyone within range of the projectile. For the spectators, rangefinder binoculars might come in handy, this article shows the different ones that might suit your needs.

Furthermore, your bones and muscles are aching after shooting 5 to 10 arrows, then you cannot possibly work on developing skills that result in accurately placed arrows. Finding the correct draw weight for compound and recurve archers is a controversial topic. When selecting what is right, your skill level and what you hope to achieve as an archer all factor in.

You maybe unsure of this topic because you have never held a bow before, or you’ve possibly had a few basic lessons and now want to pursue archery more seriously. Whatever the reason for your interest it is important you have a good idea on how much time you have to chase your goals. Your stamina, motor skills and physical condition will change the more you shoot. Archery as a whole will learn you valuable skills as time develops.

If the draw weight is too much, the probability that you’ll learn proper biomechanical form is unlikely and the experience won’t be enjoyable. Gender, age, body type or willingness to learn all don’t matter when selecting the proper draw weight if you are over bowed. Introduction aside, you’re probably looking for some recommended draw weights now. Below are two tables of recurve and compound draw weights.

These are starting points which may help you finding the perfect balance.

Recommended draw weight for beginner recurve bows

Ages 8 to 10 10 to 12 pounds
Ages 11 to 13 10 to 14 pounds
Ages 14 to 17 12 to 16 pounds
Ages 18 to 20 16 to 22 pounds
Adult women 16 to 26 pounds
Adult men 22 to 28 pounds

Recommended draw weight for intermediary recurve bows (including athletic beginners)

Ages 8 to 10 10 to 14 pounds
Ages 11 to 13 12 to 18 pounds
Ages 14 to 17 16 to 22 pounds
Ages 18 to 20 18 to 26 pounds
Adult women 22 to 32 pounds
Adult men 26 to 38 pounds


Recommended draw weight for beginner compound bows

Ages 8 to 12 10 to 16 pounds
Ages 12 to 14 14 to 22 pounds
Ages 15 to 18 22 to 28 pounds
Young women and male teenagers 26 to 36 pounds
Women with above average strength and young males 30 to 40 pounds
Adult men 40 to 50 pounds
Men with above average strength 40 to 60 pounds


Recommended draw weight for intermediary compound bows

Youth 18 to 22 pounds
Teenagers 24 to 30 pounds
Young women and older male teenagers 30 to 40 pounds
Women with above average strength and young males 40 to 50 pounds
Men with above average strength 50 to 60 pounds

Damaging your progress

The fastest way to falter your skill as an archer is to start off over bowed. Parents and instructors may have a philosophy that a new archer should buy a bow which they intend to shoot for the next 3 or 4 years. This will almost always lead to the draw weight being too much.

In this situation, the instructor won’t be able to fix the biomechanical misalignments and the student will only be able to train for short periods. Young students who haven’t fully developed will lack upper body strength and become discouraged with a great deal of discomfort.

When choosing a draw weight, start by training with light weight bows. Don’t focus on the target results, but rather proper body alignment and execution. As you become more proficient, slowly increase the draw weight by 2 to 4 pounds.

Salesmen and sports stores

A good instructor or salesman should ask you questions about your archery experience before they make any draw weight recommendations. If they are not asking questions like these beware, they may not actually know what they’re talking about.  

  1. Do you have any experience with archery?
  2. Has an instructor taught you anything, if so what did they teach you?
  • Are you involved in any other sports?
  1. How many archery lessons do you plan to receive a week / month?
  2. What are your goals for archery, do you plan to compete?
  3. Did your instructor suggest a draw weight?
  • What size bow did you use during a lesson? What was its draw weight? Was it comfortable?

If your coach is experienced and advised a specific draw weight don’t settle for anything. Students sometimes return with something completely different because they didn’t have enough patience. Maybe their parents didn’t have enough time to shop around for the right bow, or maybe the local shop convinced them otherwise.

If you are going to any good dealer and you already know what you need, do not let them sell you something because that’s all they have ‘in stock’. Be patient and call around, check online until you come across the draw weight you need.

Selecting your first bow or upgrading

When you’ve arrived at the store and you’re certain they have exactly what you’re looking for, you should always take the following into consideration when looking at your potential bow.

  1. Putting too much strain on undeveloped muscles and joints will be painful. This can be due to age or recent injuries. Be willing to put your ego aside and take something that is comfortable.
  2. A draw weight that is way too heavy will prevent you from shooting proper. The very reason for this article is to emphasise that archery is a progressive sport. As you get better you can increase the draw weight, but when starting out, always go with a recommended weight from your instructor or someone who has experience.
  • Repetitions at a lower draw weight will help build muscle memory. Give your potential bow a few draws, if it feels comfortable in your arms this will most likely make the shot easier to perform. The easier the shot, the more you can train and the better you will become.
  1. As mentioned above good muscle memory and training will lead to greater precision. When you choose your bow make sure it’s something you want to use constantly, and isn’t a pain on your body.

Have some fun

Everyone who starts archery wants to hit the target and have a good game, whether is recreational or competitive. Draw weight is extremely important as it’s unlikely you will be able to draw the bow, set your anchor and hold. All while acquiring your target, aiming, releasing and following through without your muscles shaking from head to toe. You cannot seek to get better under these conditions, and if you’re not improving, you’re not going to have fun.

The bottom line

Your equipment and the quality of your coaching is in direct proportion to the quality of your learning experience. For anyone beginning with archery it is always important to focus on: proper technique, having fun and continuing to improve your shot execution. If you have the right equipment, you should be able to execute the shot without discomfort, which would lead to you increasing your overall skill as an archer.

But what if you already have a bow that’s draw weight is too much? Well, don’t give up just yet. If your bow is relatively in good condition consider returning it to the store, they may offer you a refund. Fellow more experienced archers at the range may also be interested in buying your bow.

Don’t give up though, archery is such a rewarding fun sport, and once you’re hitting the target there’s no going back.